Palm Springs, CA— Leaders of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) issued the following statement after the Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs rescinded their clean air policy, exposing their guests and employees to secondhand smoke:
“We invite our colleagues at Agua Caliente Casino to join the thousands of casino workers across the country fighting to end smoking in our workplace. In fact, many of us joined precisely because our employers decided to bring back indoor smoking. As frontline workers, we know that smoke does not adhere to designated sections and that there is no ‘safe’ level of secondhand smoke. It is terrible that our fellow casino workers in Palm Springs will now have to endure breathing secondhand smoke every day at work and all of its terrible side effects. We no longer live in the 90s and casinos should not be catering to the ever shrinking 10.9% of Californians who smoke at the expense of their employees and guests. We strongly urge the management at Agua Caliente to reconsider their decision so that their employees are not forced to choose between their health and their paycheck.”
Over the past three years, thousands of casino workers have joined the worker-led movement to close the casino smoking loophole. CEASE is active in five states including New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Virginia. CEASE members have testified before legislators, sharing harrowing stories of pregnant women being forced to work surrounded by high-roller cigar smokers and some who have developed cancer after a lifelong career in the casinos.
More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke free, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues implemented 100% smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found adult cigarette smoking rates in the U.S. dropped to an all-time low, with only 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers. Another report from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report, entitled “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” evaluated particulate matter – an indicator for secondhand smoke – in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to casinos that allow smoking. They affirmed that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.
Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” reads their report. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.